978-1457663543 Chapter 9

Document Type
Homework Help
Book Title
The Film Experience: An Introduction 4th Edition
Authors
Patricia White, Timothy Corrigan
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CHAPTER 9
EXPERIMENTAL FILM AND NEW MEDIA: CHALLENGING FORM
KEY OBJECTIVES
Describe experimental film and media as cultural practices.
Explain how experimental works make and draw on aesthetic histories.
Point out how these works explore the formal properties of their media.
Discuss how experimental media can both challenge, and become part of, dominant film forms and
institutions.
Examine some of the common organizations, styles, and perspectives in experimental media.
Show how viewers can prepare themselves to watch and appreciate experimental works.
Explain ways that the challenges of experimental media contribute another dimension of significance to the
film experience
CHAPTER OVERVIEW
Chapter 9 explores experimental audiovisual media from its origins to the present day, giving students the
necessary tools to watch and discuss some of film history’s most complex, challenging, and possibly most rewarding
cinematic endeavors. It starts with a short history of experimental film and media practices, beginning with the
parallel developments in motion picture technology and modernism in the arts in the early twentieth century. It then
examines experimental and abstract narrative forms; associative, structural, and participatory organizational
practices; and surrealist, lyrical, and critical stylistic orientations. It concludes with a consideration of how
experimental media challenge and expand viewers’ perceptions.
This chapter focuses on experimental practices that are alternative to commercial narrative cinema and to
corporate- or state-sponsored documentaries. It draws students’ attention to media artists who often have only been able
to make their work and show or distribute it thanks to the financial assistance of universities, cultural
foundations, and government agencies. It explores how experimental forms, though in some ways the least
accessible mode of film and media, have fundamental bearing on how we see.
TEACHING THE OPENING VIGNETTE
Our hope is that Lemonade (2016) will serve as a particularly accessible introduction to this chapter on
experimental film and new media. Co-directed by Beyoncé and Kahlil Joseph, this 57-minute video is an
extraordinary adventure in sound, color, music, and word. The film is structured by eleven phases, ranging from
“Intuition” to “Redemption,” through which a woman (Beyoncé) coping with infidelity must pass in order to find
her salvation. The wide range of emotions allows the filmmakers to explore a multiplicity of techniques in editing
and mise-en-scène, with each chapter having its own innovative look and texture. Consider showing in class the
chapter “Resurrection.” With its rich décor, changing digital formats, and powerful imagery, it exemplifies the
film’s ambition to explore fully the potential of new audiovisual media. To prompt discussion, ask students why a
music video is used for this chapter’s opening vignette. No doubt the students are familiar with music videos and
may intuitively associate them with the radical techniques discussed in this chapter. Point out that in the Internet
Movie Database (IMDB), Lemonade is categorized both as “music video” and “art film.” You may also wish to list
feature filmmakers, whose techniques are considered unconventional or experimental, who began their careers making,
and continue to make, music videossuch as Spike Jonze (Her and Where the Wild Things Are) and
Michel Gondry (The Science of Sleep and The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind).
TEACHING THE CHAPTER
Experimentation with form and abstract imagery has occurred throughout film history. While students may not be
familiar with the leading luminaries of experimental films, they are likely to recognize many experimental film and media
practices because they have been appropriated by music video directors and animators and have even been used in short
films on Sesame Street.
When teaching this chapter, take advantage of the ever-expanding number of online resources to increase
students’ exposure to contemporary experimental artists. In addition to screening one of the Film in Focus movies or
another feature-length work, consider punctuating your lecture and class discussion with an array of experimental shorts.
(ubuweb.tv is a terrific resource.)
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Teaching Technical Vocabulary and Key Concepts
This chapter doesn’t present a huge amount of new vocabulary, but given the challenging nature of the subject,
it would be especially important for students to have a full grasp of the appropriate technical vocabulary from the
previous chapters, particularly Chapters 3 through 6. Depending on which experimental films are screened in class,
it would be nearly impossible to discuss some of the imagery and techniques employed without being comfortable
using technical film terms. Conduct an in-class review or administer a short quiz after the screening. Ask the class to
define technical terms or to describe the film’s organizational patterns, list the narrative time and locations, and
identify its stylistic orientation, using as much technical vocabulary as possible.
TEACHING THE VIEWING CUES
1910s-1920s: European Avant-Garde Movements, p. 315
What historical precedents in the arts might have shaped the strategies used in the film you just viewed? Does
aligning the film with a historical precedent shed light on its aims? Explain.
Invite colleagues from art history, literature, history, or language departments to come speak about modernism, or
ask them to suggest works of art or readings that might be illustrative.
Formalisms: Narrative Experimentation and Abstraction, p. 324
Consider how abstraction is achieved and used in a film screened for class. How do repetition and variation
contribute to the film’s shape?
Ask students to respond to this Viewing Cue on an exam or in a journal entry or short reaction paper. In class, screen
some of the short films of pioneering video artist Lillian Schwartz, created in conjunction with computer scientists at
Bell Labs in New York City in the early 1970s. Or watch animator Jodie Mack’s Unsubscribe #1: Special Offer Inside
(2010), the first in a series of shorts that manipulates and abstracts everyday paper goods into rapidly morphing
geometric shapes. (These films can be found at lillian.com and jodiemack.com)
Experimental Organizations: Associative, Structural, and Participatory, p. 325
What is the principle of organization of the next experimental film you see in class? Identify the most representative shot
or sequence, and discuss its meaning.
This Viewing Cue is an excellent question for students to ponder in a journal entry.
Experimental Film Styles and Approaches, p. 332
Watch the clip of Gently Down the Stream (1981) online. What specific images or words solicit your attention?
What devices remind you of the elements of cinema? Are there any elements that bring to mind influences outside of
film?
To explore the religious imagery, you can ask students to research paintings and statues of the Virgin of
Guadalupeor the iconography around a secular figure like Jesus Malverde, the so-called patron saint of Mexican
narcotics traffickers. Or ask whether any of the students work out on rowing machines like the one pictured in the clip.
Contrast this clip with video artist Ximena Cuevas’ El Diablo en la Piel (Devil in the Flesh) available
onlineand discuss how both works rely on and subvert classical Hollywood and Catholic art conventions having to do
with female suffering and the mortifications of the flesh.
Expressive Styles and Forms, p. 336
Watch a clip from The Future (2011) online. What aspects of the clip employ a traditional narrative style? What
aspects of this narrative film bring to mind experimental film techniques?
Use this Viewing Cue as a prompt for discussion at the beginning of a class following a screening (or at the end of the
screening), or on a test to gauge students comprehension of the film or films screened.
TEACHING THE FORM IN ACTION
Lyrical Style in Bridges-Go-Round (1958), p. 335
The word “cinema” shares a Greek root with kinetic motion. This kinship is often most evident when bodies in
motion are filmed. Consider placing Shirley Clarke’s Bridges-Go-Round (1958) in a dance with city symphony
films like Manhatta (1921) or installations like Bill Brand’s 1980 Masstransiscope, which is a mural installed in a
New York City subway station and animated by the movement of passing trains. Or partner the rhythmic editing of
the bridges with the way NY Export: Opus Jazz (2010) shoots the choreography of Jerome Robbins’s 1958 “ballet in
sneakers” in various New York City locations. Ask students to comment on each film’s use of vivid color. Or
59
screen Eva Weber’s 2008 short, The Solitary Life of Cranes. How does Weber, like Clarke before her, reveal the
dynamic nature of the massive but invisible city structures right before our eyes?
TEACHING THE FILMS IN FOCUS
Avant-Garde Visions in
Meshes of the Afternoon
(1943), pp. 318-319
Have students map the film by following the “narrative trajectories of each of these inanimate “characters.”
Discussion Question 1:
What is the significance of the key, the knife, and the mirror? This question could open a
post-screening discussion of Deren’s film.
Discussion Question 2:
How does Meshes of the Afternoon draw upon traditions from poetry and painting? Look at
pages from William Blake’s illustrated editions of Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience in class. Or find
paintings by Odilon Redon online from the MoMA exhibition of his work in 2005-2006.
Formal Play in
Ballet mécanique
(1924), pp. 326-327
There are many potential points of entry for discussing Ballet mécanique, among them Léger’s involvement with
the cubist and futurist movements in painting.
Discussion Question 1:
How does the repetition of familiar geometric shapes create a rhythm that, along with the
music, propels the film forward?
Discussion Question 2:
Spend some time discussing the film’s title. How does it encourage certain interpretations of the
images that follow?
Discussion Question 3:
How does the fracturing of the female image here differ from the fetishization of women
characteristic of classical Hollywood narrative?
ADDITIONAL SUGGESTIONS
Alternative Activity
Alternative Activity
FILMS CITED
Allegretto (1936)
Anemic Cinema (1926)
The Art of Vision (1965)
Automatic Moving Company (1910)
Ballet mécanique (1924)
Being John Malkovich (1999)
Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (1927)
Black Girl (1966)
The Blood of a Poet (1930)
Blue (1993)
The Book of All the Dead (1975-1994)
Borderline (1930)
Bowling Alley (1995)
Bridges-Go-Round (1958)
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British Sounds (1970)
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
Chelsea Girls (1966)
The Clock (2010)
Decasia (2002)
Destino (1945, 2003)
Empire (1964)
Enthusiasm (1931)
Entr’acte (1924)
Eye Myth (1967)
Film About a Woman Who… (1974)
Film No. 4 (Bottoms) (1966)
Film Number 7 (1951)
Fireworks (1947)
Flaming Creatures (1963)
Flesh (1968)
The Flicker (1965)
The Garden of Earthly Delights (1981)
Gently Down the Stream (1981)
Giant (2016)
Glimpse of the Garden (1957)
The Hand (1965)
Handsworth Songs (1986)
Heart of Glass (1976)
Histoire(s) du cinéma (1988-1998)
Hold Me While I’m Naked (1966)
The Hour of the Furnaces (1968)
“Human Behavior”
(1993)
Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969)
Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) La
région centrale (1971)
Last Year at Marienbad (1961)
Lemon (1969)
Lemonade (2016)
Letter to Jane (1972)
Lucifer Rising (1972)
Manhatta (1921)
Man with a Movie Camera (1929)
Melancholia (2011)
Memories of Underdevelopment (1968)
Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)
Mothlight (1963)
Multiple Orgasm (1976)
Nervous System (1994)
Night Cries: A Rural Tragedy (1989)
An Oversimplification of Her Beauty (2012)
Passion of Remembrance (1986)
The Patriot (1979)
Perfumed Nightmare (1978)
Portrait of Jason (1967)
Rape (1969)
Rapture (1999)
Rat Life and Diet in North America (1968)
Rhythmus 21 (1921)
Riddles of the Sphinx (1977)
Rose Hobart (1936)
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Scorpio Rising (1964)
Se7en (1995)
Serene Velocity (1970)
The Seashell and the Clergyman (1928)
Serene Velocity (1970)
Spirited Away (2001)
Street of Crocodiles (1986)
Strike (1925)
Surname Viet Given Name Nam (1989)
Symbiopsychotaxiplasm (1968)
Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take 2 1/2 (2005)
Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman (1978-1979)
They Are Lost to Vision Altogether (1989)
Third Eye Butterfly (1968)
Tongues Untied (1989)
24-Hour Psycho (1993)
Two or Three Things I Know About Her (1967) Un
chien andalou (Andalusian Dog, 1928) Vertical
Roll (1972)
Video Fish (1975)
WVLNT (Or Wavelength for Those Who Don’t Have the Time) (2003)
Wavelength (1967)
Weekend (1967)
Window Water Baby Moving (1959)
Zorns Lemma (1970)

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